Can’t help but smile to think of my dad.
Mom was the disciplinarian and Dad played less of a heavy at our house … unless you really crossed the line and then, well, look out. His yelling could be heard for miles.
He still can yell, but his bombastic voice is simply a match for his big heart and hugely generous nature. Dad will give you anything he has — even if it’s his last — and he’ll do anything you need him to.
Over the years he:
Built me my very own sandbox.
Spent days leveling a section of our back yard so Traci and I could have a little swimming pool. I remember it seemed a lifetime for it to finally be ready and longer still for the darn thing to fill with water, but then we had a pool. Where we could get good and wet and then five minutes later be knocking at the door to use the bathroom.
Fixed almost anything I broke. Quite easily and good as new.
Helped sing endless rounds of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and “On Top of Old Smokey” on car rides home from Mimi and Papa’s. And then carried one or both of us sleeping angels into the house.
Faced the entire neighborhood’s watchful anticipation as Traci and I sat and waited on the front lawn for his return home from work with a puppy the neighbors were looking to give away. Tripper became a fast addition to our family, and Dad endured that dog’s many antics — including chewing through the cord of his table saw and eating some of his heart pills — with good humor and love. Many pets followed over the years and they are all attached to Dad at the hip.
Put together countless toys, games, bookshelves — always taking the time to read the directions first (much to my impatience!), and usually with sweat dripping down his face.
Made incredible gravy (never sauce in our house), braciole and countless “concoctions.” You never knew what you might get if Mom was too sick to cook. Thankfully the days of fried bologna and chicken in the Sunday gravy were rare!
Was, with Mom, an amazing PCHS Band Parent — lugging, organizing, selling and delivering grapefruit to raise funds, always there for support, even chaperoning our Montreal competition my senior year. (A former band member I met up with a few years ago remembers Dad finding her a Michael Jackson poster at a time when she was ga-ga for MJ. She still has it!)
Helped teach me to drive. His yelling, “What are you WAITING FOR????? Pull over!!!!” as an ambulance came up behind us on Ridge Street is forever etched in my mind. And yes, I narrowly missed a tree in my nervousness to comply.
He also taught me to change a tire, a skill I’ve managed to avoid putting into practice all these years.
Drove all the way to Albany to collect me the year I got sick at the New York Press Association convention (I had carpooled and had no car of my own), bringing me to their house where Mom had soup and a warm bed waiting for me. And then he drove me home the next day.
Moved me from apartment to apartment what seems like a million times.
Welcomed Basil into our family with open arms.
Some of Dad’s more surprising moments involve not me, but Catherine. He changed her diapers (never changed mine!) and became a whole new person when his granddaughter was born. And especially when she was little, there was no other person in the room if Grandpa was there. Basil, I and my mother could all be on fire, but she’d only want “Gampa” to play with.
Today he takes great pride in helping to choose Catherine’s presents — and he’s got pretty good fashion sense, I must say!
I write a lot about being adopted — about trying to understand and make peace with who I am. Dad is one of the biggest supporters of my search. He is not often profound — he will make a point of noting that he didn’t go to college — but he is firm in his belief that “no one deserves to know more than you.”
The non-identifying information I was able to obtain from Westchester Family Services describes my birth father as having dropped out of high school to become a machinist apprentice. He has dark hair and eyes, and is described as being moody.
Clearly, I’ve inherited the coloring and some of the personality (as my parents and Basil will be all too glad to attest).
But I fervently hope I’m a lot like Mike Salvatore, too.
Happy Father’s Day.